The Sands of time
Rally Jameel – Saudi Arabia is a peninsula that has more than 5,000 years of history. When I’ve seen pictures of Saudi Arabia, the hills of sand are enchanting. The tan sands change color with the sun; they can look pink or peach, and they hold the country’s history in the crevices. The lines in the sand look like stretch marks from years of breeding granules of life. With such a rich history over so many years, you wouldn’t think this peninsula could make history again, but it is, and it is happening in the sand.
The Rally Jameel was set in the sands, 1000 kilometers long, with three locations; Hail, Qassim, and Riyadh. Navigation points were sometimes not received by the team until the morning of the race. The Rally passed some of the region’s most fascinating historical sites, passing through Jubba, a UNESCO world heritage site known to contain the best and oldest examples of Neolithic rock art.
It then headed to Tuwarin Village and the area of Uyun AlJiwa in the Al-Qassim region, which features the famous Antar and Abla rocks. The route then passed by the iconic Saq Mountain before heading to Rawdat Al Hisu, close to the Ruwaydat ash Sha’ Basin, finally finishing at the Rally HQ at Shaqra, the location of the newly opened Shaqra University.
Extreme heat is characteristic of most of Saudi Arabia. Night-time temperatures in the desert can be famously chilly even in summer, as the sand gives up daytime heat rapidly once the sun has set. It got down to negative one celsius at night.
Saudi Arabia has learned to survive in the desert through the Bedouins. The women at the Rally learned the ways of the Bedouins, the glamping in black tents to keep in the heat, the importance of a really good cup of Arabica coffee, and the sharing of knowledge. It is part of the vision of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s KSA Vision 2030
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 was unveiled in 2016; it represents a transformative and profoundly ambitious plan to unlock the Kingdom’s vast potential by creating a diversified, innovative, and world-leading nation for future generations. This vision includes empowering all members of society in all forms, including sports and including women.
A prosperous, modern nation must encourage and empower all members of society, especially women. That is why Women’s Empowerment is an essential part of the vision. Empowering women in Saudi Arabia covers all aspects, not only sports but Motorsports also. The Rally is an initiative by Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, organized by Bakhashab Motorsports, and sanctioned by the Saudi Automobile & Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).
Single threads weaved together to create the Rally Jameel tapestry.
It’s only been five years that women have been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Many Saudi women have had international driver’s licenses but were not allowed to drive in their own country. HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud is one of the women instrumental in making this race happen and deciding on the route.
HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud is a senior doctor in Saudi Arabia and the CMO of the Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix, the FIA Medical Delegate for Saudi Arabia, and the head of the Saudi Arabian Marshall’s Club. HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud is one of the women instrumental in making this race happen, “My role is at the Chief Medical Office on the rally, so I’m responsible for the medical safety of all the participants and organizers of the rally.”
I talked To HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud right after the Formula One, where she was President of the Marshalls and CMO. With all that she is doing as a doctor and all she is doing for Formula One when Rally Jameel called and asked her if she would be interested in helping, she not only said yes, she said “Hell yes.”
As HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud explained, the Rally was not just about driving in the sand; it was about navigating in the sand. The Rally wasn’t about speed but about navigation. All the women were outfitted with proper clothing and learned how to change a tire. There was concern about women driving in the sand, but as HRH Dr. Ahad al Saud said, “If I can drive, they can drive.”
HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, agreed. In her video, HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud explains the group’s thoughts on bringing forward this Women’s only Rally and integrating women into society, teaching them navigational skills, and driving open up opportunities for not just women but countries.
Two men intrinsically involved in the conception of Rally Jameel are Hassan Jameel and Abdullah Bakhashab. While most of the world knows Hassan Jameel as Rihanna’s former Prince Charming, Jameel is the deputy president and vice chairman of the Abdul Latif Jameel conglomerate. The Abdul Latif Jameel conglomerate has distribution rights to Toyota vehicles in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
His philanthropic work promotes health, safety, and jobs for his fellow Saudi Arabians, “As Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, we are honored to help drive women’s participation in sports through Rally Jameel. As a motorsports event inspired by Saudi Arabia’s mission to empower women under Vision 2030, we are committed to building on the Rally’s success and further assisting in this progressive Kingdom-wide transformation”, commented Hassan Jameel, Deputy President and Vice Chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel.
Abdullah Bakhashab of the Bakhashab Motorsports Development is the second man that helped weave this tapestry, but probably the man that came up with the idea. Bakhashab started rally racing in 1992 and won the 1995 Middle East Rally Championship title. Bakhashab has experience in rallies from a driver’s perspective.
“I am very happy with Rally Jameel coming to its end and crowning all the winners, who took part in this historic, first of its kind, women only, navigational rally in KSA and the Arab world,” commented Abdullah Bakhashab, General Manager of Bakhashab Motorsports, who orchestrated the event. “I would like also to express my satisfaction with the huge participation, where foreign racers from 15 countries, such as the US, Sweden, UAE, and others, took part in the Rally, alongside nearly 21 racers from KSA. And most importantly, they all reached the endpoint safely. I look forward to seeing them again in Saudi Arabia.”
The Rally Jameel will continue
In the closing ceremonies, Jameel was heartfelt in saying that there will be more rallies for women in Saudi Arabia. The team that has been created has the background and credentials to keep this Rally going.
The stories of the women drivers are as diverse as the lands and sands of Saudi Arabia. From women that flew halfway around the world to a young woman that got her driver’s license two days before the event just so that she could be in the Rally. Women from all over the world are eager to see it continue.